'PM's speech unlikely to satisfy Obama'

Americans said to doubt he'll make the required commitments; Rivlin: He doesn't believe in 2 states.

netanyahu knesset speech 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
netanyahu knesset speech 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The US is skeptical that this Sunday's policy speech by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will satisfy US President Barack Obama, Western diplomats were quoted by Reuters as saying Thursday. Speaking to their Quartet counterparts after talks with Netanyahu, US officials reportedly voiced doubts he would make the commitments on halting settlement activity or a two-state solution that Obama has been pushing for. "The Americans are not satisfied with what they have been told," a senior Western diplomat said. "They [the Israelis] are saying things like, 'adding a room in a house is not natural growth,'" another Western diplomat said regarding Netanyahu's recent discussions with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell over settlement activity. Another top Western diplomat was quoted by Reuters as saying that Netanyahu was likely to stop short of backing the creation of a Palestinian state and vow instead to work toward a more general goal of Palestinian self-governance. Diplomats also said that sidestepping the issue by emphasizing the government's commitment to the Road Map, and thereby implicitly accepting a two-state solution, would not satisfy Washington. Earlier Thursday, during a tour of the West Bank, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said Netanyahu "does not believe in the adage 'two states for two peoples.'" Rivlin said Israel's wider conflict with the Arab world preceded the more specific issue of making peace with the Palestinians. According to Rivlin, who planted a tree in the settlement of Eli, "the prime minister needs to say only what he believes in and tell the Americans - as they asked - the truth. I think that when the prime minister speaks of an arrangement, he really wants to reach an arrangement. But I am not sure that the prime minister believes in two states for two peoples." Meeting residents of the settlements, Rivlin distanced himself from the phrase 'natural growth,' which Israel uses to explain construction in existing settlement blocs. "We have a right to build here. I think the term 'natural growth' is apologetic and does not embody a principled stance. We live in these places out of a faith in the justice of our cause and also because we see these areas as Israel's belt of security." Rivlin was accompanied by National Union MK Uri Ariel. Earlier in the day, Rivlin said in the Ariel Academic Center that "we are here to stay in Samaria and despite some discordant voices we are not considering any other possibility."